Wednesday 17 January 2018

Israel's Netanyahu 'open' to meeting with Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas in order to end weeks of Israeli-Palestinian unrest

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would be "perfectly open" to meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to end weeks of Israeli-Palestinian unrest.

Mr Abbas has ignited an uproar in Israel after falsely claiming the country had "executed" a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who is recovering in an Israeli hospital, drawing accusations he is inciting violence.

Mr Netanyahu told reporters he has been speaking to US Secretary of State John Kerry and other leaders about meeting with Mr Abbas.

"I'd be perfectly open to it now," he said.

"I think it's potentially useful because it might stop the wave of incitement and false allegations against Israel," he said. "I'd be open to meeting with Arab leaders and the Palestinian leadership in order to stop this incitement and set the record straight."

The Palestinian boy, who was run over by an Israeli vehicle after involvement in the stabbing of an Israeli boy, has become the centre of heated, high-level name-calling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Mr Abbas said in a televised speech on Wednesday that Israel is engaged in the "summary execution of our children in cold blood" and wrongly claimed that 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra was among those killed. Mr Netanyahu accused Abbas of "lies and incitement".

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly alleged that Mr Abbas is inciting Palestinians to violence against Israel, a claim denied by the Palestinian leader. Mr Abbas says Israel has been using excessive force against Palestinians.

In the past month, eight Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. During the same period, 31 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 14 identified by Israel as attackers, and the others in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops.

In his remarks to reporters, Mr Netanyahu rejected accusations by the Palestinians that Israel is using excessive force in its attempt to confront the stabbing attacks. The US has also suggested that Israel may be using excessive force.

On Monday, Ahmed and his 15-year-old cousin Hassan stabbed and seriously wounded two Israelis, including a 13-year-old boy, in Jerusalem. Hassan was shot dead by police while Ahmed was struck by a car after the attack.

Amateur video widely circulated on Palestinian social media sites showed the wounded Ahmed lying on the ground after being struck. The images, which made no mention of the stabbing, have enraged Palestinians.

Israel's Hadassah Hospital, which is treating the boy, issued a statement saying that "in stark contrast to circulating rumours," he was stable and "fully conscious".

In a speech to parliament that day, Mr Netanyahu cited the Palestinian images as evidence of Palestinian incitement. "He tried to kill and murder," Mr Netanyahu said of the boy. "But the complete opposite is presented in a twisted way."

Then on Wednesday, Israel released security camera footage that appears to show the two Manasra cousins wielding knives and chasing a terrified man through the streets of Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish area of east Jerusalem. The video moves to a shot of the boy who was stabbed standing in a sweet store, getting on his bicycle and then crumbling over and falling off his bike after the attack.

In a final scene, the older boy is seen being confronted by two armed policemen along a railway track. He lunges at the officers and is shot.

Mr Abbas said on Wednesday: "We will not give in to the logic of brute force and policies of occupation and aggression practised by the Israeli government and its herds of settlers who engage in terrorism against our people and our holy places and our homes and our trees, and the summary execution of our children in cold blood, as they did with the child Ahmed Manasra and other children in Jerusalem and other places."

Mr Abbas' aide Saeb Erekat said his comments were a result of inaccurate information.

"We thought in the beginning that he (Ahmed) was killed," Mr Erekat said. "Then the information we had was that he is clinically dead."

Press Association

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